A List Of Possible Accidents And Ailments Throughout The Life Of The Industry
Many miners suffering from injury had to give up their job down the pit and for the rest of their working life, worked on the pit top, at generally a reduced rate of pay. Some would have their wages enhanced with compo (compensation) pay and most would have one day a week off so that the total amount did not put them into the extra tax bracket making them worse off. Some committed suicide by jumping down the shaft, maybe due to external pressures or worry over job or money.
Those miners who left the industry through illness or injury or redundancy would find that although working underground all the above problems were open to them, the one thing that was constant and different to any surface job, was that the underground atmosphere was generally always the same, day in, day out, whereas if for example one went to work on a building site, one was exposed to all kinds of weather such as wind, rain, cold, frost, ice, snow, sun, heat, fog etc, in fact something different every day. Many miners of course although talented and skilled in coal mining and highly paid, would find that that they were unskilled for many surface jobs away from the industry, and so would have to take a lower paid job labouring, or work in a factory and maybe travel further from home to do it, and work longer hours. In the pit generally apart from a very short period in the shift when the Deputy was about, most men and boys were left to their own devices for the rest of the shift. Even in a factory the atmosphere changes from summer to winter, but particularly operating a machine with repetitive movements and being constantly overseen for quality control was not to the liking of many and they left the job after a short time. It is known that some succumbed to these kinds of stress which made them permanently incapable of work, and they signed on for ‘long term sickness benefit’, albeit they were only in their late 40s or early 50s.
In an ever increasing population and sometimes a lack of jobs in the area where they lived many would be unwilling to work away and unlike most of the foreigners who came here to work long shifts for less money than at the pit for less hours of work. All the perks and things such as getting paid for bathing, attending meetings etc; no subsidised bus fares to go to work; no rest days and the number of days holiday in the year reduced; probably no overtime pay; no free fuel (i.e. coal, smokless fuel or cash in lieu for gas allowance) maybe have to work weekends regularly or awkward split shifts. The list could go on. Many would find themselves worse off or unable to obtain work and some to exist for a time on job-seekers allowance or long term dole.
It will take at least another two generations before the tales of work at the pits disappears. As I have mentioned earlier, the nicely shaped grass and tree covered hills will soon merge into the local landscape and in some areas already many do not realise that these were once tips for discarded dirt at a pit. Although volunteers from Bilsthorpe Heritage / Museum presently visit schools in the area to explain to the children about the mining industry and why mining villages exist. They also take along various artefacts such as lamps, helmets and other items for the children to have a hands on experience.
Only opencast working in certain areas will remind people of coal.
Compensation claims for pneumoconiosis and other chest diseases have been lodged against the industry. Some claimants have received between £2,000 and £30,000, however the ones receiving the large amounts are virtually bed ridden or would have to be taken out in a wheel chair, or forced to stop frequently to gather their breath. Many are forced to use nebulisers or oxygen bottles to breathe.
Claims for vibration white finger have been lodged against the Board. This is caused by constantly using a boring machine etc with one's finger on the trigger for long periods giving rise to numbness in the finger for ever afterwards.
Likewise for industrial deafness, etc. No ear defenders were issued before 1986. Noise levels for various machines were for example: face panzer running full 85 dBA (decibels) and running empty 100 dBA, Dosco road header 97 dBA, Shearer cutters 97 to 105 dBA, Ranging drum double ended machine up to 110dBA, Booster fans 120 to 125 dBA. The ear can detect frequencies from around 40Hz to 18kHz (kilo hertz) but is more sensitive to frequencies around 1kHz. It has been found that 130dB is the threshold of pain. The Health & Safety Executive Code of Practice gives guidelines for reducing the employees' exposure to noise. 90dB (A) Leq to be the limit for a man to be exposed to for an 8 hour shift, the 'A' weighting because all ears do not react to the frequencies alike.
Surveyors are generally exposed to the very loud noise created by ventilation fans that are situated at the entrance to development headings. Every development has to be set out, that is a direction line established by way of a white line chalked or painted on the supports accurately aligned by line strings hung from the roof or supports by clips etc. This task generally takes quite a time as the instrument, be it a dial or theodolite has to be accurately centred by adjusting the various type of tripod used before observing and turning out the bearing. To arrive at the junction in the first place is by traversing from a nearby base line previously established. Reaching the roof at the initial setting out can be quite an onerous task and at times during my tenure at the pit up to late 1986 the Health & Safety brigade of today would have had a field day, but how else would we have done the job? It was always necessary to complete the job as no roadway in a pit can be driven without a direction line and sometimes also a grade line. One is within the threshold area that could also have included a conveyor motor running as well. Until the introduction of ear defenders one was exposed to the horrendous continuous whining noise from the fan. This job had to be done several times before the development roadway had extended away from the junction and the 'noise'.
Many Surveyors and surveyor's assistants and linesmen have suffered from industrial deafness including myself, requiring hearing aids to be used for the rest of one's life.
Another personal problem I have and suffered from since 1972 is a neck problem. At times the pain is excruciating and manipulation is required frequently. What caused it? It was self inflicted. I hit my head on a low girder at speed which knocked my head back. Granted the roof height was low particularly for someone 6 feet (1.83m) tall but what was I doing? I was running and it was illegal to do so. It was my own fault and I have only myself to blame. Probably and more than likely others doing the same have claimed against the Board by stating that the roadway was of insufficient height but would not have admitted that they were running. I could not do that. The job of a surveyor requires one to have to tell the truth at all times otherwise the job would fail but of course there are exceptions, and I have come across odd ones in my career.
Anyone working in the pits and escaping from any of the above can be classed as 'fortunate'.
So much, for giving a lifetime's work in the mining industry in conditions stated above.